April 19, 2021

D.C. United Game 24 Recap: United emphatically takes first place in the East & MLS


Entering Saturday’s Major League Soccer match at Sporting Kansas City, the hosts held a two-point lead on D.C. United at the top of the Eastern Conference. By the final whistle, however, there was no doubt who was atop the East. First-half goals by Chris Rolfe, Fabian Espindola, and Perry Kitchen did the job in a 3-0 rout. United improved to 13-7-4 (43 points), one point better than SKC (12-7-6, 42) for first in the East.

The onslaught was quick and followed a familiar pattern, as it was Sporting that carried a decent bit of the play early. But whether caused by offside traps gone horribly wrong, a lack of attention by SKC defenders, or both, United were gifted multiple open opportunities to hit on the counter and the black-and-red didn’t make any mistakes.

Espindola’s ninth goal of the season opened the scoring in the 24th minute, after he neatly cut past would-be defender Aurélien Collin near the left touch line. Espindola rolled a shot from the corner of the penalty area past SKC goalkeeper Jon Kempin and into the far corner. Luis Silva got an assist on the goal.

Silva would drew his second assists just 4 minutes later when United struck again. Silva chipped the ball ahead for Rolfe, who either stayed perfectly onside or got a bit of a jump and was fortunate not to be called, sending him alone on Kempin. Rolfe made no mistake on his finish for his sixth goal of the season, beating the charging Kempin from 19 yards out to make it 2-0.

But D.C. wasn’t done. Three minutes after that, Kitchen ran on to a through ball by Rolfe, cruising free as a bird through the SKC defense. Collin raced back to try and stop him, but Kitchen neatly cut the ball across him and beat Kempin low. It was Kitchen’s fourth of the season. The three strikes in seven minutes were decisive and while SKC again had a good bit of the possession in the second half, the lead was never under any threat.

Beyond the East, the win also for now lifts United top of the league, one point clear of SKC, Seattle, Real Salt Lake, and FC Dallas. United has a game in hand on SKC, RSL, and FC Dallas, the Sounders will play their game in hand on United vs. Portland tomorrow afternoon.

United has little time to enjoy the win. D.C. is in action Wednesday night at the L.A. Galaxy (10:30 p.m. Eastern).

THE GOOD: The combination of Silva-Espindola-Rolfe was once again too much to handle for the opposition. United have scored seven goals in its last two league matches with that set up. The trio alone has produced six goals and three assists.

THE BAD: United maybe absorbed too much pressure, but given the performance on the counter, it’s hard to even nitpick about that.

THE UGLY: When the DVD is made of Collin’s Greatest Games, this match won’t be on it.

NOTES: Both teams played CONCACAF Champions League matches midweek. United beat Waterhouse at RFK, 1-0, while SKC drew 1-1 at Real Esteli of Nicaragua. … United forward Eddie Johnson served the second of his two-game suspension Saturday night. … Two of the charter members of the league, this was just United’s seventh win in Kansas City in 26 regular-season meetings. … For the second straight week, United beat a team it had previously beaten in an MLS Cup Final. United edged the then-Kansas City Wizards, 3-2, in 2004. United could continue that theme Wednesday. United beat the Galaxy in the 1996 final.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. He covered the club for The Journal Newspapers from 1997-2002 and has attended matches since 1996. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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